Ranchi: Catholic Archdiocese calls for sober Christmas celebrations
The Catholic Archdiocese of Ranchi will go for a spiritually rich but materially sober Christmas celebration because of the difficulties posed to common masses by Covid-19 and lockdowns and with special prayers to keep safe against Covid new variant Omicron.
The Advent and Christmas Pastoral letter released on Sunday and signed jointly by Ranchi Archbishop Felix Toppo and auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas will be read at all masses in cathedrals and parishes in such a way that it is brought to the knowledge of the faithful.
Bishops from other eight dioceses namely Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh, Gumla, Khunti, Daltonganj, Dumka, Simdega, and Andaman Nicobar will also be requested to adopt the letter.
Incidentally, Ranchi is the only Archdiocese in Jharkhand while eight dioceses are coming under it.
“We will pray to keep in mind Deuteronomy 31:6 ‘For the Lord you Good, he it is that does go with you, he will not fail you, nor forsake you.
The pandemic has cast a huge dark shadow over our lives as we unsurely totter out of the pandemic and enter into an advent for the preparation for Christmas. We continue to pray that God keeps all of us safe from the new variant of Covid Omicron,” said Ranchi auxiliary Bishop Mascarenhas.
The letter calls for a spiritually rich but materially sober Christmas like last year with an emphasis on charity for the poor and prohibition on the bursting of crackers.
“The effects of the pandemic are still being felt. Like last year, we recommend a Christmas that is more spiritual than material. We would like to repeat our last year’s plea, ‘Because of protection of the environment, and as a measure against air and sound pollution, we strongly request you not to use firecrackers during this festive season.’”
Furthermore, like the previous year, we recommend that each family and religious community make sacrifices, especially during the season of Advent, and contribute to charity so that we can help those who were already living in poverty and those who have now been reduced to poverty because of Covid and the lockdowns. We encourage you to make a crib with the joint efforts of the family and to hang the Christmas star but invite you to avoid expensive lighting and decorations,” the letter states.
Leading from the front, the letter announces that at Archbishop House there will be a small crib that will be on public display from December 23.
“However, we will not light or decorate the house. We request our friends and well-wishers not to bring flowers, sweets, or cakes to the Archbishop's house. Instead, they can donate the money saved either to the Archdiocesan Fund for the poor or the Archdiocesan Mission fund,” it informs.
The letter further informs about the outreach work done by the Archdiocese to the poor and the needy during the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic the Archdiocese of Ranchi along with many religious congregations has been out in the streets at the service of the poor, organising shelters for migrants, distributing dry rations, dispensing blankets, and aiding people with medical help.”
“At the height of the second wave, the Ranchi Catholic youth under our leadership were outside the Government hospitals (frequented mostly by the poor) providing cooked food for thousands of patients and their attendants. Recently, we distributed 21 cycle rickshaws to needy rickshaw pullers.
“It was touching for example to receive donations from children who broke their money boxes of savings to help the poor. That is the spirit of advent and Christmas. We wish to encourage you to continue being charitable,” the letter said.
The believers are also informed about the return of the physical church but in the same vein asked to “take all precautions”.
“Because of the pandemic restrictions, we had taken up the task of bringing the celebration of the Eucharist through broadcasted live Masses which were streamed to your homes. This whole project began with liturgies at the Cathedral during the Holy Week of 2020 and continued till August 2021 with some intermissions. While it was a huge success, we continuously emphasised that the online Mass was not valid as a sacrament but was only to help with prayer and connectivity to God through the Church. We are happy that people have returned in large numbers to participate physically in the churches. Let this time of Advent be a time for full return with enthusiasm and joy to the Lord who awaits us in the sacraments especially those of Reconciliation and Eucharist. We however remind you not to let off your guard and to take all the safety precautions,” the letter reminds.